Chain Reaction

on August 02, 1996 by Christine James
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   The impending disappointment of this supposed action-thriller is foreshadowed at the onset by kicking things off with a boringly mellow title sequence. You'd expect the letters of the words "Chain Reaction" to domino-effect themselves into an adrenaline-pumping mega-explosion or something to that effect, but, instead, they just sort of fade in anticlimactically. This initial letdown reflects what's to come in this ho-hum, homogenized tale centering on Eddie, a scruffy young genius played by Keanu Reeves (!) who's working with a scientific research team to perfect a new, clean, abundant energy source that will revolutionize the world. When he finds the answer, evil forces with a hazily explained malevolent political/profiteering agenda blow up his lab (as well as several city blocks), murder his altruistic, high-minded mentor, and frame Eddie for the mayhem. Of course, an attractive young female has to be thrown into the mix: Rachel Wiesz plays Dr. Lily Sinclair, a physicist who is also implicated in the treasonous crime, and, resultantly, must flee with Eddie.
   Unfortunately, Wiesz, who's less believable a physicist than Reeves is as a prodigy, is affected, unappealing and annoying, seeming to be there only in order to fill the damsel-in-distress role. Between whimpering and looking fearful and confused, she occasionally musters the courage to sneak up on a bad guy and whack him in the back of the head with a handy object, while Eddie does all the real fighting, maneuvering and ingenious deducing. Government conspiracies and traitorous alliances unravel unexcitingly, with tension as taut as the proverbial wet noodle. Melodramatic, often inappropriately placed swellings of score are ineffective and puzzling as far as creating a mood goes. Although stunts, action scenes and special effects are well-executed, it's poorly paced, old-hat retreads, with absolutely nothing new contributed to the genre. Because the immediately impacting jeopardy is pointed not at the world at large or the American Way but instead solely at our two unintriguing heroes and the allegiance-shifting character played somnambulistically by Morgan Freeman, the chain reaction among audiences will likely be a contagious snore. Starring Keanu Reeves, Morgan Freeman and Rachel Wiesz. Directed by Andrew Davis. Written by J.F. Lawton and Michael Bortman. Produced by Andrew Davis and Arne L. Schmidt. A Fox release. Action/thriller. Rated PG-13 for some intense action/violence. Running time: 107 min
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